Curry targets oil, gas group |

Curry targets oil, gas group

State Rep. Kathleen Curry is ready to take a new approach to tackling the lingering challenge of trying to reform regulation of Colorado’s oil and gas industry.

Speaking to about 15 people at a public meeting at the Glenwood Springs Community Center Monday, Curry, D-Gunnison, said she plans to seek to change the mission and makeup of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which regulates the industry.

Curry wants fewer representatives with industry backgrounds on the commission. She also wants the commission’s mission, which is now defined as maximizing oil and gas production, to be better balanced to consider surface owner rights and the environment.

Her new goals follow two failed attempts to pass legislation seeking to provide more protection to surface owners when the energy industry develops underground resources (See related story, this page).

“I’m not going to let them off the hook. Every year that I serve I’m going to keep after this until I get it done,” Curry said. “I don’t much care what the industry thinks. I’m just going to do what I think is best for the district.”

Curry recognizes that she faces an uphill battle changing the commission’s representation. Former state Rep. Russell George, R-Rifle, failed in his effort to do the same thing when he served as speaker of the House of Representatives, its highest leadership position.

“I’m going into it with my eyes wide open,” she said.

Five of the commission’s seven members are required to have industry experience. Curry said she understands the need for technical expertise, but would like to see four members be from outside the industry.

She said the industry also is calling for reform because the commission is backlogged in its work. The industry wants a smaller commission whose members are paid rather than volunteers, following the model of the state Public Utilities Commission, she said.

Missionwise, the commission also is supposed to consider public health, safety and welfare, but Curry said the emphasis still is on production, something she wants changed.

Dana Barker, a Parachute resident running as a Democrat for state Senate, told Curry he thinks commission members should have other areas of expertise, such as water quality. Curry said she is concerned because COGCC staff members lack a background in water quality and public health.

Curry also wants to require the COGCC to promote a process for landowners to be better able to tap bond money posted by industry as a form of financial security against damages when drilling occurred. The money is rarely released by the commission.

“They have some money sitting somewhere. It’s in the form of bonds and it’s not easily recoverable by the landowners,” Curry said.

Also Monday, Curry predicted the legislature would have to make some repairs in January to the immigration reform it passed during a special session this summer.

She said she wants to know if the measures have major impacts on local work forces.

“Mostly I hear from lobbyists and I’d rather hear from the people in the district if I could,” she said.

Curry spoke with some confidence Monday about her plans for the upcoming legislative session, secure in the knowledge that no Republican candidate is running against her this fall. She is completing her first two-year term in the legislature.

“I didn’t that expect that at all,” she said of the lack of competition. “I’m very grateful.”

She said she’s happy to be able to hold public meetings rather than focus on campaigning.

“I can do this kind of thing and talk to people about what’s on their minds this way,” she said.

Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516

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